Massacre Time is a keynote film in the directorial career of Lucio Fulci. From an economic point of view it was a badly needed commercial success after a series of indifferent and poorly received comedies. Thematically, it allowed Fulci his first major opportunity to explore the sadism and cruelty which would become his stock in trade in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This is exemplified by the overblown vindictiveness of a prologue which involves a man being hunted by a pack of ravening dogs in order to satisfy the sadistic lusts of Junior Scott, who is played with relish by scene stealing Nino Castelnuovo.
Franco Nero, fresh off the success of Django, never really gets going as the brother who returns to his hometown to discover it ruthlessly presided over by Junior and his aged father. His blandness in the role is highlighted by the exaggerated brilliance of George Hilton, who shifts from drunken layabout to cool eyed killer with style and panache. A brutal bullwhipping of Nero’s bland cowboy adds to the fun, as does a highly entertaining clash in a saloon between the two brothers and Scott’s thugs.
The development of a Freudian subtext between father and son, hints at incest, and a sado-masochistic relationship, gives complexity to the relationship between Junior and his father, but seems to be included simply in order to make Junior more abhorrent. It would be tempting to give Fulci the credit for Massacre Time, but the reality is the themes are much more in keeping with the concerns and preoccupations of the screenwriter Fernando Di Leo. Fulci was just along for the ride, but he made good on the promise shown here.